Law enforcement is essential for the protection of lives and property. Within the sphere of criminal justice, earning your law enforcement master's degree online allows you to take on leadership roles, earn a higher salary, and advance your career without disrupting your busy schedule. Based on data for police and detectives from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in law enforcement and administration are projected to grow 7%, with more employment opportunities available to those with additional education and experience.
What are the Best Online Master's in Law Enforcement Programs?
Georgetown University Washington, DC
ADMISSIONS RATE 17%
GRADUATION RATE 94%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 6%
RETENTION RATE 96%
DEFAULT RATE 1%
Routinely considered one of the best institutions of higher learning in the US, Georgetown University provides several online academic programs through its School of Continuing Studies. This includes a master’s in applied intelligence degree with a concentration in law enforcement intelligence. This program is centered on the best practices in risk management and intelligence analytics. The 33-credit degree plan consists of courses such as ethics, applied intelligence psychology, analysis of organized crime, and a culminating capstone project. While students can certainly earn their entire degree remotely, Georgetown offers flexible on-campus and hybrid options. Most students finish the program in two years, though they can take as long as five. Three start dates are offered each year and tuition is fixed regardless of where a student resides. Georgetown welcomes international candidates who hold the equivalent of an accredited American baccalaureate degree.
Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA
ADMISSIONS RATE 82%
GRADUATION RATE 79%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 21%
RETENTION RATE 90%
DEFAULT RATE 4%
Saint Joseph’s University Online offers a variety of certificate and degree programs geared towards working professionals, including an online master’s in criminal justice with a concentration in federal law enforcement. This fully accredited degree prepares students for a wide range of careers, whether they want to work on the frontlines as a police officer or in an advisory capacity as a strategic consultant. The degree plan totals 30 credits and consists of courses like criminological theory, behavioral development, and homeland security. SJU’s program allows entry six times during the year. Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor’s degree and have prior experience, or otherwise demonstrate considerable knowledge, in the federal law enforcement field. Distance learners are assured institutional support, including a personal coordinator and access to student grants and loans.
University of San Diego San Diego, CA
ADMISSIONS RATE 52%
GRADUATION RATE 79%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 4%
RETENTION RATE 87%
DEFAULT RATE 3%
The University of San Diego’s master of science in law enforcement and public safety leadership empowers professionals looking for career advancement opportunities. The USD program stands out from other online law enforcement degrees for its integrative capstone experience, which spans the entirety of the program, not just one semester. The capstone allows students to assemble a portfolio of key research and projects that demonstrate their understanding and expertise. The remainder of the 31 credit degree plan consists of coursework in areas like organizational leadership and communication for law enforcement leaders. Students take two classes at a time over a 14-week semester, earning their degree in less than two years. Application materials include an accredited bachelor’s degree and a minimum 2.75 cumulative GPA.
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
ADMISSIONS RATE 66%
GRADUATION RATE 77%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 4%
RETENTION RATE 92%
DEFAULT RATE 5%
Michigan State University offers classes and academic programs that extend far beyond the flagship East Lansing campus, including two online master of science degrees in criminal justice and law enforcement intelligence and analysis. Both programs have a 30-credit degree plan. The law enforcement master’s degree focuses on building technical skills in intelligence, crime prevention, and policy analysis. The program suits those who want to work as policy consultants and program designers. The criminal justice track allows students to specialize in either security management or judicial administration. Remote classes are taught by experienced full-time faculty. Distance learners enjoy access to professional development opportunities like the American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting as well as scholarships specifically for graduate students in the field. Additionally, MSU’s Career Services provide one-on-one counseling and workshops that help students obtain internships and law enforcement administration jobs.
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, OH
ADMISSIONS RATE 86%
GRADUATION RATE 62%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 17%
RETENTION RATE 88%
DEFAULT RATE 10%
Since 1819 the University of Cincinnati has been providing students of all backgrounds with lauded academic programs. Today, the school has one of the most highly recognized online law enforcement degrees in the US. This master of science in criminal justice consists of 11 classes in topics like research methods, police effectiveness, and applied crime prevention. Students personalize the curriculum through elective hours and a demonstration research project. With three start dates each year and flexible scheduling, full-time students can earn their degree in one year and part-time students can earn their degree in two years. Tuition prices are fixed based on residency status. All students may access financial aid or lessen the overall cost by transferring up to nine credits from prior accredited college work.
Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
ADMISSIONS RATE 73%
GRADUATION RATE 45%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 58%
RETENTION RATE 71%
DEFAULT RATE 10%
Located just outside of Tampa, Florida, Saint Leo University enrolls nearly 15,000 students from around the world through its campus and distance academic programs. The school has one of the most comprehensive law enforcement master’s degree options available. Students begin the master of science in criminal justice curriculum by taking core classes in public policy making and legal issues in criminology. They then pick a concentration area that best suits their interests and career goals, with options including behavioral studies, forensic science, corrections, critical incident management, criminal investigation, and legal studies. Online students pay a fixed, affordable tuition rate, and active military receive a discount on the standard cost. Courses are structured in eight-week terms and there are three entry dates per year. Distance learners have access to academic counseling and other resources through SLU’s WorldWide Student Services.
University of New Haven West Haven, CT
ADMISSIONS RATE 82%
GRADUATION RATE 54%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 2%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 5%
Through its five colleges, the University of New Haven provides over 100 academic programs, including two options for an online law enforcement degree. The first is a master’s in criminal justice, a flexible program which allows students to personalize two-thirds of their degree plan, making it a great choice for experienced professionals who understand the field and know what skills they want to further develop. The second option, a master's in criminal investigations, has a more structured curriculum that focuses on white-collar crime, the first program in the country to do so. All online students pay an affordable fixed tuition rate and may sign up for financial assistance including loans and graduate assistantships. UNH also provides opportunities for professional development, particularly through research assignments with a guiding professor.
Tiffin University Tiffin, OH
ADMISSIONS RATE 93%
GRADUATION RATE 38%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 29%
RETENTION RATE 62%
DEFAULT RATE 12%
Tiffin University offers a flexible and practical master of science in criminal justice that emphasizes job orientation and skills building. The program especially focuses on collaboration between students and faculty. In addition to core classes, students pursue a concentration in justice administration, crime analysis, criminal behavior, or homeland security. Graduates leave the Tiffin program prepared for leadership positions in corrections facilities, mental health agencies, and law enforcement organizations. All of Tiffin’s online classes cap at 15 students. Six start dates and flexible class schedules mean students can earn their master’s in three semesters, or one year, if enrolling full-time. Online learners also enjoy career services, personal counseling, and access to over 40 clubs and organizations.
Colorado State University-Global Campus Greenwood Village, CO
ADMISSIONS RATE N/A%
GRADUATION RATE 0%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 100%
RETENTION RATE 0%
DEFAULT RATE 4%
Colorado State University prides itself on offering career-oriented distance learning opportunities through its Global Campus, including a master’s in law enforcement administration online program. The degree plan totals 36 credit hours and consists of coursework in areas like analytical methods and criminological theory. Additionally, students may choose from 15 specialization areas, giving the CSU degree great breadth. Degree candidates are also expected to complete an internship and capstone experience. As part of the CSU system of schools, distance learners enjoy support such as tutoring services, career planning assistance, and resources through CSU’s virtual library. The university also guarantees a fixed tuition rate as long as a student maintains good standing. Classes start every four week, which, when combined with the generous transfer policy, means students can earn their degree in less than two years.
How to Choose an Online Master's in Law Enforcement Program
Choosing the right online law enforcement degree can be difficult. Fortunately, there are some key things to look for when determining which program best suits your needs and interests. If you are an out-of-state student, be sure to check if a given program is available in your state and if there are any on-campus requirements. It is also important to determine the length of a program, how many credits are needed to graduate, and how much each of these credits costs.
If you need to balance work or family obligations while earning your online law enforcement degree, find out if classes are offered asynchronously or if each session is live streamed at a scheduled time. A school's accreditation is another consideration to keep in mind. Should you wish to transfer credits in the future, most four-year schools will not accept transfers from unaccredited schools, and many employers will overlook an unaccredited degree.
Careers for Graduates of Master's in Law Enforcement Programs
Faced with threats from terrorism and other criminal activity, there is a continual need for law enforcement occupations. With the growing number of criminal justice professionals, better educated leaders are also needed to fill supervisory roles. By earning your law enforcement master's degree, you will be prepared to tackle the challenges associated with solving crimes. These careers are both personally and professionally rewarding, and carry median salaries much higher than the national average.
Police officers are on the front lines of the criminal justice system. They patrol neighborhoods, respond to incidents, and collect evidence from crime scenes. Police officers also work with members of a community to educate them about safety and crime prevention.
Median Salary: $50,793
A district attorney represents the state government when it comes to prosecuting criminals. The DA is the head prosecutor and leading law enforcement officer in any given criminal case at the state level. DAs are responsible for building and presenting a case against a criminal offender and ensuring that laws are upheld to the highest standard.
Median Salary: $76,252
Security managers are in charge a team of security officers. These professionals may have experience working in law enforcement, which enables them to identify and prevent criminal behavior. Security managers generally work in the private sector to safeguard employees and company assets.
Median Salary: $65,395
Chief of Police
Police chiefs are responsible for supervising the day-to-day operations of a police force. Chiefs report directly to their mayor or governor and are responsible for officiating and analyzing departmental responses to criminal activity. The chief also implements improvements to the police force and works with prosecuting authorities in their jurisdiction.
Median Salary: $72,207
The FBI is responsible for the protection of the U.S. government and its citizens. It is the mission of this agency to uphold the Constitution in the face of domestic and international threats. FBI agents employ a variety of intelligence gathering and law enforcement methods to investigate and prevent crime.
Median Salary: $64,388
Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates of Law Enforcement Master's Degrees
Because of the increase in foreign and domestic threats, law enforcement departments throughout the country are in search of experienced leaders equipped with a high level of education. According to the BLS, employment for law enforcement professionals is projected to grow from 2016 through 2026. Salary and rate of job growth will depend on the specific career you choose and the region of the U.S. where you find a job. The table below provides projected employment data for police and detectives, which is a good indicator of the overall demand for law enforcement officials.
|Employment, 2016||Projected Employment, 2026|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary Growth by Experience for Graduates of Law Enforcement Master's Programs
As a general rule of thumb in most industries, the more experience you have, the more money you will make. Law enforcement is no different. By spending more time in the industry, you will understand more of what is required of a professional in your position and will be able to hone your skills accordingly. The table below provides median salaries for several careers available to those with a law enforcement master's degree.
To determine the best online master's in law enforcement programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master's in law enforcement programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.